Ofcom Fines TalkTalk £750,000 For Nuisance Calls

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

Follow on: Google +

TalkTalk says two suppliers who made the calls will pay the fine

TalkTalk has been fined £750,000 by Ofcom for making excessive numbers of nuisance calls to prospective customers in 2011.

Ofcom sets a limit on the number of abandoned and silent calls that organisations can make in a 24-hour period and found the telco exceeded this on four separate occasions between 1 February and 21 March 2011. In total, 9,000 such calls were made to consumers during the period.

The communications watchdog said that although the calls were made by two of TalkTalk’s suppliers, Teleperformance and McAlpine Marketing, TalkTalk was ultimately responsible.

TalkTalk fine

TalkTalk LandscapeA TalkTalk spokesperson told TechWeekEurope that the two firms will pay the fine in its entirety and that it has ended its relationship with them. They believed the calls were the result of individuals rather than company policy, but it could not continue to use their services.

“TalkTalk demands high standards from the companies it works with and as a result TalkTalk immediately stopped using these suppliers,” said the spokesperson. “Both suppliers addressed the root cause of the problem and TalkTalk will fully recover the financial penalty imposed by Ofcom from these companies.

“TalkTalk works with all its partners to ensure that regulations are adhered to and that customers continue to get good service and best value.”

Ofcom says abandoned calls can occur when the recipient answers and the caller hangs up, while a silent call is when the phone rings but there is only silence when the call is answered. Ofcom requires that these calls include a recorded information message that identifies the caller and how the recipient can opt out of future sales calls.

Ofcom warning

These can also be caused by answer mobile detection (AMD) systems that aim to filter out answer machines. Ofcom requires organisations to estimate the accuracy of such systems and keep records to ensure they comply with regulations.

If AMD equipment detects an answer machine, any repeat calls to the same number on the same day should only be made if a call centre agent is guaranteed to be able to handle the call. TalkTalk failed to do this on one day in the investigated period.

“Silent and abandoned calls can cause annoyance and distress to consumers. Companies must abide by the law and Ofcom’s policies. If they fail to do so then Ofcom will take firm action,” said Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer group director. “Today’s penalty sends out a strong message to organisations using call centres that they must comply or face the consequences.”

TalkTalk will be unhappy about the fine given it has only just lost its unenviable crown as the UK’s most complained about ISP to Orange. TalkTalk had been the holder of Ofcom’s dubious honour for the previous two years.

Are you up to speed on 4G? Try our quiz!

Is your broadband up to speed? Try our Speed Test!